Schumacher, Alonso, Kubica: Who will take Massa’s place at Valencia?

Michael Schumacher last tested for Ferrari in 2008

Michael Schumacher last tested for Ferrari in 2008

Thankfully the prognosis for Felipe Massa seems to be getting better with every passing day. Though hope continues to grow he may be able to return to racing in the future, it looks increasingly unlikely he will be able to do so in Valencia next month.

It leaves Ferrari in the same place they were in with Michael Schumacher ten years ago, hunting for a replacement for an injured driver.

The internet has been buzzing with rumours that Schumacher himself could be srafted in to take Massa’s place. Fernando Alonso, who could be without a drive for his home race after Renault’s suspension, has also been linked to the number three car. Who will end up in the seat?

Update: Official: Michael Schumacher to return for Ferrari in the European Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher

The man himself has not said whether he would drive for the team or not – and there have been mixed messages from those close to him.

His spokesperson Sabine Kehm indicated he might return to his old team:

The whole thing will be considered by Ferrari. If they approach Michael, then he will consider it. But there is no reason for him to step into their discussion. Usually, I would say he’s not interested because he’s fine with his life and he doesn’t miss anything but now the situation is so different – it’s very hypothetical.
Sabine Kehm

Luca Colajanni added:

We have said before that it is possible that Michael Schumacher could return to help us out… We have two test drivers at Ferrari (Luca Badoer and Marc Gene) at the moment and Michael is an advisor. We have not spoken to him, but it is possible that this might happen. But we will have to wait and see what happens. It is something for (Ferrari team principal) Stefano Domenicali to consider over the coming weeks.
Luca Colajanni

But manager Willi Weber has consistently denied the rumours.

Whoever sits in the car at the next race in Valencia, it will not be Michael Schumacher. I am not 100 per cent sure; I am 200 per cent sure. The pressure on him would be huge. He would be expected to win, but he has not driven this car. When Michael was racing he would get as close to perfection as possible. In this case, it would not be perfection; it would be a gamble – and that’s not Michael’s style.
Willi Weber

Managers, however, are paid to get the most money for their clients – and they do not do that by willingly offering them up.

There are more practical reasons why Schumacher might not take up the drive. He hurt his neck in a bike crash in February. And questions remain about his willingness to partner top-level drivers like Kimi Raikkonen.

Fernando Alonso

With Renault banned from the Valencia race, and Fernando Alonso having been linked to a future Ferrari drive for some time, it’s not surprising that some people have put two and two together and begun to wonder if Alonso might appear in Ferrari overalls soon.

In reality there would be significant contractural obligations to overcome. He is employed by Renault and has various personal sponsorships. Whether he could make the leap to Ferrari depends on whether Renault’s suspension from the Valencia race might be sufficient to activate any break clauses Alonso might be able to take advantage of.

On the other hand you have to question how desirable it might be for Ferrari to have Alonso in for just one race before a likely return to Renault, and then have to find another replacement.

Added to that, with Renault planning to appeal their suspension it is not even certain Alonso will be available.

Robert Kubica

In a similar vein to Alonso, the news BMW are withdrawing from F1 has prompted speculation Robert Kubica could be drafted into the Ferrari.

Valentino Rossi

Perhaps the most ‘out-there’ suggestion of the lot. But Rossi has tested for the team and has shown an interest in competing in four-wheeled motor sports, mainly rallying. His gigantic popularity would create masive interest in the race.

And there isn’t a Moto GP race on that weekend…

Read more: Valentino Rossi tests an F1 Ferrari

David Coulthard

If any of the first three names on this list were to end up in the car it would be a remarkable development. Could Ferrari go for a similarly experienced but less high-profile choice?

It’s worth remembering who the team chose in 1999. Mika Salo had lost his F1 seat before the start of the year but had a decent amount of experience. Looking for a similar driver this year they could hardly do better than pick David Coulthard.

One of the most experienced F1 drivers ever, Coulthard drove with Ferrari engines in 2006. He has contractural obligations to Red Bull and the BBC, but they might be persuaded to reach a compromise. Dietrich Mateschitz’s company still uses Ferrari power in their Toro Rosso cars.

Luca Badoer

Badoer has been a Ferrari tester for aeons. But he didn’t get the call-up last time Ferrari needed to replace an injured driver, so why should he this time, now his last F1 race is almost a decade ago?

Marc Gene

Of the two Ferrari testers, Gene is probably the more likely to appear at Valencia. He has more recent experience as a racing driver than Badoer, having last raced in 2005, and has appeared as a substitute on two separate occasions.

Added to that, he is Spanish, which is likely to go down well with the crowd, particularly if they are having to make do without Alonso.

Counting against Gene are doubts over his race craft: he was dropped by Williams during his last appearance as a substitute in favour of Antonio Pizzonia.

Vitantonio Liuzzi

Liuzzi perhaps fits the Salo mould even better – he has far fewer F1 starts to his name than Coulthard does, but is still young and has been tipped to return to Formula 1 in the future.

He would be the first Italian driver to race a Ferrari since Nicola Larini in 1994, which would inevitably attract a lot of media attention.

Liuzzi’s employment by an active F1 team – even one as lowly as Force India – may count against him. Particularly as they enjoy close technical co-operation with rivals McLaren.

Anthony Davidson

Like Liuzzi, race-fit and recently unemployed, Davidson has only made the occasional appearance in sports car races this year.

Anyone else?

Ferrari tested three young Italian drivers in the off-season: Edoardo Piscopo, Salvatore Cicatelli and Mirko Bortolotti. Although F2 racer Birtolotti impressed it would be highly unusual for Ferrari to elevate a complete rookie to the team at short notice. It has been decades since a driver made their F1 debut in a Ferrari.

Who do you think would be the best choice for Ferrari? Who is most likely to turn up in red at Valencia? Have your say below.

Update: Official: Michael Schumacher to return for Ferrari in the European Grand Prix

More from the forum: Who will replace Massa?

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104 comments on Schumacher, Alonso, Kubica: Who will take Massa’s place at Valencia?

  1. _Ben_ said on 29th July 2009, 15:58

    I was never a big Schumacher fan but I would love to see him back for one race at least. Other than that Rossi would be grat to see in F1, a much needed good character and I seem to remember him setting very fast times in the test he did. On that note does that mean he will have a superlicenese, do you need one just to test?

  2. DMW said on 29th July 2009, 16:02

    It will be Gene. Even Alonso, who has experience with KERS, would be hard pressed to sort out, in one day of testing/set up, the regular mass of buttons and knobs in a new car, much less the operation of the Ferrari KERS system. And this is aside from the experience needed with a chassis to set it up and understand its tire wear, and so on. Then there are the IP issues related to letting a temporary driver behind the veil. In sum, its totally unforseeable that anyone but Gene would be able to drive in Valencia

    After that is another story, though. With a strict testing ban, Ferrari should be keen on getting ALO in the car before year end, especially if they are going to be testing 2010 bits, which I would expect them to turn to fully now that their fastest driver will be recuperating for the next few races.

  3. Hallard said on 29th July 2009, 16:06

    I dont really like the idea of Schumacher OR Alonso (or any other current driver) pinch hitting at Ferrari. I think it should go to Marc Gene on principle. Why even have a test/reserve driver (much less two) if they cant do any testing, and they arent actually on reserve to step in for an injured driver? Just seems like a farce. Plus Gene has recent racing experience in LeMans, so I think it would be a good fit, and the right thing to do.

  4. Noel said on 29th July 2009, 16:08

    A Coulthard/BBC/Ferrari weekend would be simply amazing. This, please, Stefano!

  5. Rob said on 29th July 2009, 16:13

    What about Fisichella… he ticks many boxes.

    -He would be VERY up for it I’m sure. And won’t demand much $$$.
    -Tons of experience, including with top line teams
    -Italian, so popular move with the fans at Monza and will be able to communicate well with his Italian mechanics
    -Probably eminently possible to buy him out of his Force India contract, or at least get him on loan
    -Force India can replace him with Liuzzi easily
    -(with all due respect to Fisi) unlikely to pose a massive threat to Kimi, or indeed to Massa; if they put someone too good in that seat, e.g. Alonso, it might smack of a kick in the teeth for Massa. At the same time Fisi is a perfectly capable driver and will not embarass himself either.

    • Since Massa is very likely to make a comeback, at the latest for next year, Fisi would be burning his bridges with Force India. Though, he /did/ say even when driving for Renault that he would love to end up in Ferrari, so who knows?

      Doubt we’ll get to find out, though.

      • Woffin said on 29th July 2009, 17:30

        Dont Force India still owe Ferrari some money for last year’s engines as well? Dont know how true it is, just something I heard :)

      • Rob said on 29th July 2009, 17:41

        Yeah but I’ve a feeling Fisi would happily burn his bridges with FI for the chance of a few races in a Ferrari; I know which I’d prefer!

        Do we know how likely Fisi would be to stay at FI in 2010 anyway? If he thinks he might be edged out in favour of Liuzzi next year that would make it even more tempting…

  6. Nefer said on 29th July 2009, 16:15

    It would be awesome to see Schumacher back in the driving seat!!! I don’t think it will happen though.

    I am a Hamilton and McLaren fan, but I think if Schumacher stepped back into the ring for a race or two, he would certainly show everyone how it’s done. There is no greater driver in my opinion.

  7. adz2193 said on 29th July 2009, 16:27

    Bearing in mind, Schumacher hasn’t driven this Ferrari or any F1 car in anger for almost 3 years now, and he’s 41 and not race fit. His spokeswoman also mentioned something about a neck injury.

    It would be interesting if Montoya was to make a shock return :P But I think its gonna be either Gene or DC

  8. And now,, from left field,,,
    Takuma Sato!

    (Schumi is a great choice, but I get the feeling he doesn’t want to go.
    The runoff’s on Ralph yesterday was hysterical (but not too horrible an idea).
    Bourdais has Ferrari engine knowledge.
    The Villenueve suggestions seem ridiculous.
    My favorite driver to date is Badoer and I wish he’d get the spot (for all his hard work) but I can’t see that happening.)

    So somebody call Takuma!!!

  9. Hakka said on 29th July 2009, 16:38

    It’s not like Ferrari to do something gimmicky or designed to attract popular support (so no Rossi, Schumi, and the like).

    Sensitivity to Massa alone will be good reason to do something understated and serious. The move will have to pay long-term dividends, and more importantly not mess-up potentially long-term relationships. They don’t want a reputation for “poaching” other drivers at any opportunity. Plus, as someone mentioned above, any top driver with any class will reject an offer to replace an injured driver, however temporarily.

    All of the above means it will have to be someone from the Ferrari family. Either the youngsters who tested for Ferrari earlier, Marc Gene, or Badoer. With Ferrari already running Fridays with a view on testing 2010 cars, the two regular test drivers will be able to help immensely – especially with the test ban in place.

    So I think Ferrari will have these drivers as priorities:
    1. Marc Gene
    2. Luca Badoer
    3. Mirko Bortolotti

  10. Kris said on 29th July 2009, 16:39

    I think the decision will be influenced by Massa’s expected recovery time. If we’re talking 2-3 races then a talented but wildly inexperienced youngster will become more attractive because it won’t matter quite so much if they’re rubbish.

    If its for the rest of the season I’d expect them to look at more experienced drivers.

    Where it gets really interesting is the fact that the technical regs are so different this year… DC and davidson’s experience won’t be quite as valuable as it would otherwise have been, tipping the scales towards someone who has been driving this season.

    I can’t believe that we’ll be in Valencia without Alonso, but I expect that will be resolved between Renault and the FIA. If it isn’t then Ferrari may just be tempted to try to buy him out of the rest of his contract. – I imagine the commercial ramifications of all the alonso fans turning up at valencia and needing to buy ferrari gear would bring a tear of joy to any accountant’s eye.

    For the record, I’m surprised bruno senna wasn’t on the list of considerations, particularly if its a shorter stint.

    • Hakka said on 29th July 2009, 16:49

      I imagine the commercial ramifications of all the alonso fans turning up at valencia and needing to buy ferrari gear would bring a tear of joy to any accountant’s eye.

      LOL. That would be awesome.

      Good point about long-term vs. short-term tradeoff depending on the expected recovery time.

  11. I think Michael should be the choice and all Formula 1 — sponsors, promoters and fans — should ask him to accept that. It would be good to F1, to gain some positive headlines on this dark year.

    He is not in good shape, but the last time he stay away from a F1 car — more that 1 year — he came back and top the times at Barcelona in the end o 2007.

    He is a good test driver too, what could help Ferrari in developing the new car to 2010.

    And the most important, I think Lewis and Co are right now preparing the knives to beat him…

    • Damon said on 29th July 2009, 17:39

      And that’s the problem. Schumi would not like to come back to F1 only for Hamilton to beat him and boast that he’s better than Schumi – only because Schumi wasn’t perfectly fit physically and hadn’t even had the opportunity to drive the new 2009 cars, and learn how to drive them, adjust to them etc.

      Schumi won’t be willing to put a dent on his legacy.

  12. slrmm said on 29th July 2009, 16:49

    I’d love to see Sato race again. Its probably not going to happen, but it would be great to see him racing again.

  13. Maksutov said on 29th July 2009, 16:54

    Marc Gene.

  14. Adrian said on 29th July 2009, 17:03

    Just a thouhgt on Massa’s recovery time. I really don’t think he’ll be allowed to race again this season.

    Think back to the most recent high profile driving realted head injury I can think of, Richard Hammond. He wasn’t allowed to drive for insurance reasons for several months, and that was road cars.

    Also, think back to Button’s big shunt at Monaco a few years ago, he had to sit out the race because there was a danger to him if he received another concussion.

    It’s not simply a case of when Massa will be well enough and fit enough to drive, so much as when it’s deemed medically safe for him to have another accident. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s a true.

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